Sadhvi Pragya

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The Times of India, May 14 2016

Sadhvi Pragya: A tomboy's path to prison 

She grew up in Bhind, a town in the heart of MP's Chambal ravines. The daughter of an ayurdevic doctor- Pragya Singh Thakur was tomboyish as a teenager. She wore Tshirts and jeans, cropped her hair and rode motorbikes. There was a vigilante side to her too. She loved thrashing eve teasers. A story goes that she and her sister once beat up some goons so badly that they pleaded for pardon.

A post-graduate in history , Pragya, now 45, was always associated with right-wing organisations. She was an ABVP member and involved with Durga Vahini, the VHP women's wing. As a young activist, she got noticed for her fiery, often inflammatory , speeches.In 2002, she set up the Jai Vande Mataram Jan Kalyan Samiti. In an interview to a news magazine, her father once said this organisation “rescued“ girls who eloped with boys of another community .

Under Swami Avadheshanand Giri, a guru who had among his followers several influential politicians, she recast herself in a new avatar: Sadhvi Purna Chetanand Giri Sharma. Later she set up the Rashtriya Jagran Manch in Indore. During this period, she often moved from one town to another-Jabalpur, Indore, Surat. A motorcycle registered in her name led the ATS to her after the blast. Subse quently , she was picked up in 2008 by the Maharashtra ATS.

It was alleged the motorcycle on which the bomb was planted belonged to Pragya. After her arrest, right-wing groups led several campaigns demanding that she be released. It was submitted she was critically ill and suffering from a serious ailment. She was also named in the 2007 Sunil Joshi murder case. Joshi was based in Dewas, MP . After Pragya's arrest, the case was investigated afresh. Nearly a decade later, the case still has many unanswered questions. In 2008, Rajnath Singh defended Pragya. “If there is evidence to prove saffron groups are involved in terror, the police should come out with it.Without enough evidence there's no reason to term Pragya Thakur a terrorist,“ he said.

“Waise to kai log apna muh bajate rehte hain, us se humay farak nahi padta (There are many who keep boasting we are least bothered),“ Pragya told when asked if she was hopeful of getting out of jail. “The people who know the definition of justice will come forward, but there are many who keep talking for nothing,“ she said at a Bhopal hospital on July 2, 2015 where she had gone to meet her ailing mother. She had been released for just an hour by a Dewas court. Now with NIA dropping charges, the stage could be set for her release from jail.

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